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Spreading the Message of Love: Hope Week Day 1

Brett Gardner (Left) and Stephen Drew (Right) were just some of the Yankees who pitched in to make today a unforgettable day for Chris Singleton (Center), a remarkable young man. (Photo Credit: Brendan Bowers/WFUV)

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This is the second of WFUV Sports' six piece special on the New York Yankees' 2015 HOPE Week.

Chris Singleton was just an ordinary college student who had just finished his freshman year at Charleston Southern University. He was also a student-athlete on the baseball team, playing in all but three of the Gators 53 games this year. The outfielder batted a modest .245, while hitting seven doubles as well as one home run. But on the evening of June 17, 2015, his life would change forever as his mother was one of the nine victims in the Charleston church shooting that shook the city of Charleston, South Carolina and made national headlines.

Chris Singleton's mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was a minister at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, the church where the shooting took place. She was also a speech therapist as well as a track coach at Goose Creek High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Sharonda died at the early age of 45. Chris, and his two other siblings, Camryn (15), and Caleb (12), lost the only parent they had, as their father did not have an active role in their upbringing.  

Chris and his family showed that love is more powerful than hate, and being able to forgive is one of the most important things in life. The 19 year old continued to show his maturity, when a month after the shooting he tweeted "The Good outweighs the bad even on the worst of days," again showing his positivity and how powerful forgiveness can be in a time of travesty.  

Chris Singleton, along with his two siblings, college baseball coach Stuart Lake, and a few other family members made their way to New York for what they thought was only going to be an interview on the Today Show. Little did they know Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and Dellin Betances were waiting in the wings ready to surprise him with a special visit live on the show. They notified the extraordinary young man that he would be headed to Yankee Stadium to partake in pre-game batting practice, followed by throwing out the first pitch at tonight's Yankees-Twins game. Chris was then surprised by even more Yankee players as he met with Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Willie Randolph, Masahiro Tanaka, Justin Wilson and Chris Young for a private tour and lunch at One World Observatory, where he was shown the best view of New York, a city he had only visited once previously when he was just eight years old.

Chris Singleton was living in the moment today during pre-game batting practice as he was placed in the first group along with Didi Gregorious, Brett Gardner and Brian McCann. During batting practice Chris hit three balls over the left field wall (one of them might have been just foul, but he said he'll count it anyway). Chris then went out to left field to snag balls with fellow Charleston native, Brett Gardner, who said he considers everyone from Charleston a 'neighbor' and because of that, it was only fitting that he was the player Chris spent the most time with today.

When asked what the highlight of the day was, he replied that he hasn't thrown out the first pitch yet and that may very well be the highlight, but he's going to remember every moment of the day. His two siblings, Camryn and Caleb, will join Chris atop the mound in the Bronx and will also throw out first pitches before today's game. The way in which Chris acted after tragedy hit his life on that unforgettable Wednesday night in June should be a reminder to everyone that spreading love and forgiveness, even in the darkest of times, are the best ways to heal a community and to show your true strength to others.

Listen below to a piece by Corey Miller.